Santa Claus is on the move.
And for the 64th time, the U.S. and Canadian militaries are providing real-time updates on Santa’s progress delivering presents to millions around the globe with the NORAD Santa Tracker, which went live on Tuesday, Christmas Eve.
“In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command.
“The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”
NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is a binational U.S. and Canadian command charged with aerospace and maritime warning and aerospace control of North America, as well as monitoring aerospace activity globally.
However, every year during the holidays, NORAD assumes the supplementary mission of tracking Santa as he travels around the world. The live interface features a 3D Santa Claus as he traverses the globe with his loyal reindeer.
In addition to tracking Santa, consumers see a live tally of how many presents have been delivered, see pictures of the world’s most beautiful places and learn about fascinating cities and countries visited by Old St. Nick.
NORAD’s tradition of tracking Santa Claus began in 1955 when a local newspaper advertisement informed child they could call Santa directly – only the contact number in the advertisement was misprinted.
Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD.
Col. Shoup was quick to realize a mistake had been made and assured the child he was Santa. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls and the tradition was born.
When NORAD was formed in 1958, it took on duties of reporting Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families.
On Dec. 24, users may also call 1-877-HiNORAD for Santa’s up-to-date location.
According to the Associated Press, dozens of tech firms — including Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Bing Maps — work together to deliver the immersive effect for global Santa trackers, with some 15 million visits to the website alone last year.
It also takes a village of 1,500 volunteers to field emails and the 140,000 or so telephone calls to the phone line, the Associated Press reported. They staff phone banks are equipped with monitors inside a building at Peterson Air Base in Colorado, which offers a view of snow-capped Pikes Peak to the west.
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